Wednesday, April 20, 2016
I found this recipe in my desert-island cookbook, The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser.
The book has no photos, but it does have headnotes.
Amanda Hesser is a master at writing headnotes – she'll hook me in with just a single sentence or a couple of short paragraphs.
Her headnote for this hyperbraised fennel is glorious. Here's an excerpt:
You cut the bulb into wedges; douse it with olive oil; season it with fennel fronds, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes; and then blast it with heat until the liquid is cooked off and the fennel is just tender. The texture of the bulb ends up, somewhat miraculously, like confit – it holds together but is like a concentrated fennel pudding inside.
So you see, I had to try it. It's now a rockstar regular in our house.
Back to headnote hunting . . .
one year ago: lemon chicken soup with spaghetti
two years ago: spicy salmon broth
three years ago: stinging nettle soup
via R. W. Apple Jr. adapted from Alice Waters in The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser
serves 4 to 6
4 large fennel bulbs including feathery fronds*
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 c. water
2 tbsp. fennel seeds, finely ground in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle
2 pinches crushed red pepper flakes**
1 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp. table salt)
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Cut the stalks off your fennel bulbs. Finely chop the fronds and set them aside. Cut each fennel bulb into eighths.
Place the fennel pieces into a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Add the olive oil and water. Cover the pot and turn the heat up to high. As soon as it boils, turn the heat down to medium. Stir, cover and let cook for 5 minutes.
Stir in the fennel fronds, ground fennel seeds, red pepper flakes and salt. Turn the heat up to medium-high. Cover and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated and the fennel is very tender, about 10 minutes. (If you still have too much liquid, you can simmer it uncovered for a few minutes.)
Take the pot off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Taste for salt and add more if necessary. Serve.
*If your fennel comes frondless, you may substitute 1/4 c. chervil leaves or leave them out.
**I like to use my handy Korean red pepper flakes here. They don't give any heat.